Our First Ocean CrossingDr James Ellingford* documents his experience and knowledge gained in preparing Pendana,

a Nordhavn 62 for his family’s very first ocean crossing.

Pendana is a full displacement, 75 tonne, ocean going vessel built by PAE Nordhavn USA. She is a little over 68ft in length and has a hull speed of 9.5kts consuming around 23 litres of fuel per hour excluding generators. She is fitted with modern navigation equipment and is able to be self-sufficient while underway. With a range of 3,000 nautical miles (5,556kms) she can make it all the way to Alaska with only a single stop to refuel.

On this trip across the Tasman Sea will be my wife Claire, our two children Abi and Bianca aged 12 and eight years respectively and good friend and professional Captain, Mark James. While both my wife and I have a reasonable level of experience when it comes to coastal cruising our ocean crossing experience to date is nada, zip, zilch and with words from the wise ringing in my ears, “James, crossing an ocean compared to coastal cruising is as far removed as primary school is from university.” I thought it may be beneficial to document our progress towards our ultimate goal.

It was decided long ago that our first international port of call was to be New Zealand. There are a couple of reasons for this; firstly and probably most importantly being that my wife’s parents both live in Auckland, New Zealand so we thought it would be fun for them to see their daughter (my wife) bring Pendana into their home port.

Secondly, we wanted to pick a location that offered the good ship Pendana, and ourselves some decent time at sea. To date we have done plenty of offshore coastal two and three day passages but we wanted to experience something more and as New Zealand offers us a true six day open ocean crossing it seemed to be the perfect fit.

Pendana’s track across the Tasman Sea.With destination chosen and the berth at the Viaduct Marina in Auckland booked, it was now time to start to prepare Pendana for the trip. Being supremely organised I started this preparation a full four months prior to our departure date window, which is between December 8-15th 2012. With time on my side, I was confident I would get everything done and dusted well in advance and, as such, have no nasty last minute items come to the fore.

There are simply so many things one needs to do to plan a trip like this that I am not sure where to start.

First of all there is Pendana herself. As she will be responsible for our safety at sea she will need to be in tip-top shape for the crossing. Pendana’s main engine, a Cummins N14, her two Onan 21.5KVA generators, the air-conditioning and heating units, hydraulic Duncan ‘Get Home’ Drive, water filters, offshore marine water maker, bilge pumps and emergency hydraulic bilge pumps, electronics and satellite communications will all need to be tested and re-tested prior to departure to ensure they are in good working order and that any spares required are sourced and securely stowed prior to departure. In short, everything from head to toe will need to be checked thoroughly as there are no second chances when one is 500nm offshore.

Nordhavns are famous for being built from the ground up to cross oceans and, as such, we are confident that Pendana will carry us across what is a fairly notorious piece of water in safety and comfort. To over-estimate this confidence and under-estimate our preparation, however, could spell disaster for everyone and hence, all of the above work will be carried out and planned for carefully during the last two weeks of November.

As part of the preparation for this trip I have been through the contents of our ACR ditch bag to ensure that everything was in date and functioning. A full list of ditch bag contents can be found here.

Viaduct Marina, Auckland New Zealand.I have also had all seven fire extinguishers checked by the Survitec Group (www.rfd.com.au/) to ensure they are all in good condition and will work if ever required.

I checked our survival suits to make sure they were not ripped or broken in anyway (although I must confess that I still need to lose about 20kgs before I can get into mine which is a bit of a worry) and checked all the use-by dates in the two medical kits we carry. Pendana carries two full medical kits so that we can handle just about any situation at sea and keep a patient comfortable until we reach land.

Both my wife and I have undergone medical training specifically designed to deal with events and incidents at sea which was a real eye-opener. I, for one, didn’t realise how many varied, interesting and well-intentioned actions can actually kill a person! That being said, if a medical emergency does arise we will be able to administer all manner of drugs to keep a patient comfortable on the permission from a medical officer whom we would raise on the satellite phone if the need arose. (See a full list of Pendana’s two medical kits)

As Pendana’s Avon eight person ocean life raft has recently been inspected and certified, I was pleased to be able to cross that off the list. I then decided to proceed through Pendana from top-to-toe to make sure that all spare parts required for the trip were on board and while she carries many spares it was surprising at just how many more were required.

I recently purchased the large Wheelhouse Damage Control Kit (http://wheelhouse.com) as well as a few large tubs of StayAfloat from Bulbeck Enviro Solutions here in Australia. If there was ever one product that all boats should carry it is, in my opinion, StayAfloat (www.spillcontrolsystems.com.au) and no, I have no relationship with this company at all, regrettably.

We did end up having to buy a few extra items for our trip chiefly being a Paratech Sea Anchor, (www.seaanchor.com), a spare Iridium satellite phone just in case a huge wave wipes out our KVH V7 satellite system and some dive gear in case we needed to dive under Pendana to cut away a fishing net or something similar but other than that most of what is required was already on board and more importantly in good working order.

Pendana with her two junior crew Abi and Bianca in Port Stephens.I must confess that the planning for a trip like this is enormous and I am glad I started as early as I did as I don’t think I realised exactly how much thought and preparation was actually required if the truth be told.

Early plotting for our course to New Zealand gives the following time at sea and fuel consumption rates. The numbers below are based on 8kts not the 9.5kt full displacement hull speed Pendana enjoys. This will allow for effects of weather and current as it is always better to be conservative re speed over ground (SOG) calculations which then feed into fuel consumption and ETA data.

Our trip from Sydney Harbour once we have cleared Australian Customs, to Opua in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand, will cover a total of 1,135nm which means being at sea for a total of 5.9 days or 141.87 hours. Once we have cleared customs in Opua we plan to travel to Auckland which is another 135nm at sea (16.85 hours). As such, our total estimated fuel consumption for this trip is 4,536 litres which is less than half of the fuel that Pendana will be carrying on departure from Sydney, Australia.

So with the schedule in place for Pendana to be in tip-top shape prior to departure, now comes the question of how one actually departs Australian waters and enters New Zealand waters legally on a private motor yacht. This, as well as other topics, will be covered in a future article, including our passage/voyage planning, our children’s reactions and preparation, disaster at sea planning, watch schedules, weather and routing, medical kits, food and provisioning and an account of our actual day-to-day experiences.

If you are a seasoned professional and have any words of advice feel free to email them to me at james@pendana.net.


* Dr James Ellingford retired after a successful corporate career so that he could do what he has always loved, to be on the water with his family. James and his wife Claire have always owned something that floats making their way up from a Bertram 25, Scarab 30, Riviera 46 to now, what is considered the finest ocean going vessel in the world under 70ft, the Nordhavn 62 Pendana.